Why don't older Macbooks (Macbooks with a physical button on them, I think up until 2008) support multi-touch when upgraded to an operating system that supports it?

They are able to distinguish two fingers opposed to one for scrolling and secondary click along with also being able to identify more than 2 fingers. Is there a hardware limitation of some sort, or is it just restricted for some other reason?


Hardware limitations. Note that Mountain Lion's supported models are for at least partially multitouch-capable trackpads; ML doesn't require you to use, say, a 4-finger swipe.

I haven't used any of my Magic Trackpads with 10.8 yet, but it should be fine.


The old-style trackpad can detect up to something like 15 fingerpoints on it's surface (as someone proved when running linux on the laptop, can't remember where I saw it though). However it is difficult to make the laptop support the gestures, because the software detects the laptop model and does not offer the multitouch gesture options.

However, there must be some way of tweaking it or using some 3rd party software - try doing a four finger swipe on an old MacBook trackpad - the pointer does not move, so the software detects it, it just doesn't know what to do with it.

As I said, I read a very interesting article about this somewhere, but I cannot for the life of me remember where.

  • I'm not necessarily looking for a hack to make this work; it's mainly just curiosity. I will edit my question so it is not so vague. But this is part of what I was wondering; I assumed it could tell multiple fingerpoints (didn't know if it just knew 0, 1, 2 and >2 though) but I did not know if the trackpad (hardware) was not accurate enough for multi-touch tasks or if they just restricted it on these models for user experience reasons (i.e. too small of surface area and/or too clumsy with the click button on there).
    – user142485
    Aug 22 '12 at 22:10
  • Tried BetterTouchTool?
    – bot47
    Aug 23 '12 at 15:54
  • Not on an older MacBook I haven't, but it is a great bit of software!
    – Ali
    Aug 23 '12 at 16:21

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